Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. Instead, it’s a burning sensation in your chest when stomach acid goes back into your oesophagus (the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach) up to your throat.
When it occurs, heartburn can last anywhere from a few minutes to as long as several hours. If you’re experiencing heartburn, you know it’s very uncomfortable. It’s no surprise everyone searches for efficient remedies to prevent and reduce this unpleasant sensation.
What Causes Heartburn?
Stomach acid helps break down the food we eat. While our stomach has no trouble handling it, it can irritate our oesophagus.
To keep gastric acid at bay, we have a round muscle ring at the base of the tube called the lower oesophageal sphincter. This ring acts as a valve: when it relaxes, it allows the food we’ve eaten to go to the stomach; when it contracts, it prevents the food and acid from returning to the tube.
When the valve relaxes when it’s not supposed to, it causes acid reflux and its most common symptom, heartburn. In which case reaching out for help from well-known digestive aids like Gaviscon tablets and liquids created to soothe upset stomach can be the solution to get the needed relief.
Sometimes, an underlying medical condition like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or a medication you’re taking, are the main reasons for acid reflux. However, more often than not, it’s triggered by our diet and lifestyle choices, making heartburn a common problem. Some major triggers include overeating, eating too quickly, lying down too soon after eating, smoking, consuming certain foods, and experiencing stress and anxiety.
What Are the Main Symptoms?
While different people experience different symptoms, heartburn mainly feels like a burning sensation in your chest behind the breastbone, burning pain that goes up to your throat and a bitter/sour taste in your mouth.
To help you ease heartburn quickly, we’ve made a list of the most efficient remedies for you. However, this isn’t medical advice – it’s intended for informational purposes only. It’s not a substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. If you’re experiencing severe heartburn or persisting symptoms are getting worse, it’s best to contact your doctor.
Efficient Heartburn Remedies
Take Oral Antacids
Antacids are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that neutralise the acid in your stomach to relieve indigestion and heartburn. You can usually buy them from online and in-store pharmacies without a prescription.
Gaviscon is one of the most popular antacids used to treat or prevent the symptoms of too much stomach acid, such as upset stomach, heartburn, acid indigestion, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It comes in the form of chewable tablets, liquid and powder for babies under two years old.
Studies have shown both Gaviscon tablets and liquid to be very effective in treating these symptoms. They bring fast, soothing and long-lasting relief from heartburn pain and discomfort. You can use them alone or with other medications, such as ranitidine and omeprazole.
How do these medications work? Since they contain aluminium hydroxide and magnesium carbonate, they work by reducing excess stomach acid to relieve discomfort. Sodium bicarbonate and alginic acid help form a protective layer over the stomach contents to soothe the burning pain in your chest.
The best way to take Gaviscon tablets is after meals and at bedtime. You should feel relief soon after taking it, lasting around four hours. Although it doesn’t counteract most medicine, it does with certain thyroid treatments and antibiotics. If you have some medical condition, consult with your doctor before taking any oral antacids.
What are the side effects of taking Gaviscon? Well, it is a very safe medicine – most people don’t have any side effects. And if you experience a side effect, it’ll probably be mild and go away as soon as you stop taking it. Nausea, constipation and diarrhoea are the most common side effects because of the ingredients.
Avoid Foods that Trigger Heartburn
Some foods are known to be common heartburn triggers, causing the oesophageal sphincter to relax and delay the digestive process. What are the worst culprits?
Foods that are high in fat, salt or spice, such as fried food, fast food, pizza, potato chips and other processed snacks, chilli powder and pepper, and fatty meats such as bacon, sausage, and cheese. Tomato-based sauces, citrus fruits, chocolate, peppermint and carbonated beverages can also trigger heartburn.
You don’t need to eliminate these foods if you don’t want to. Instead, the key lies in moderation. Since problem foods sit in the stomach longer, avoid eating them late in the evening, closer to bedtime. Also, try eating small frequent meals instead of bigger, heavier meals, and avoid late-night dinners and bedtime snacks.
Eat Foods that Help Prevent Acid Reflux
The good news is there are many foods that can prevent heartburn. Stock your pantry with foods of these three groups to help offset that burning chest again:
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating alkaline foods may help counteract the stomach acid irritating your oesophagus.
The high potassium content makes the banana a highly alkaline food. Be sure to eat a ripe banana, as unripe bananas are less alkaline and starch-heavy, which may be an acid reflux trigger for some people. Other alkaline foods include melons, cauliflower, fennel and nuts.
Overeating can very much contribute to heartburn. Foods with lots of fibre make you feel full, meaning you’re less likely to overeat. So, load up on healthy fibre from whole grains such as oatmeal, couscous and brown rice. Root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, beets, and greens such as asparagus, broccoli and green beans are other high-fibre options.
Such foods can help dilute and weaken stomach acid. Help your stomach by eating celery, cucumber, lettuce, watermelon, and broth-based soups. Herbal teas are great too.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Take some time to analyse your lifestyle to find out your triggers. If you smoke, it can be helpful to stop smoking until the heartburn resolves. If you’re overweight, a healthier diet and regular exercise can make a world of difference. If you’re stressed and anxious, try going to therapy or taking supplements to help manage anxiety. Simple changes can help reduce heartburn and help you cope with it without medications.